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Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2012 Oct;27(10):3725-31. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfs412.

Is chronic hyponatremia a novel risk factor for hip fracture in the elderly?

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  • 1Renal Consultants of Houston, Houston, TX, USA.


Hip fractures represent a serious health risk in the elderly, with significant associated morbidity and mortality. There is now an emerging literature that suggests that chronic hyponatremia increases the adjusted odds ratio (OR) for both falls and fractures in the elderly. Hyponatremia appears to contribute to falls and fractures by two mechanisms: (i) it produces mild cognitive impairment resulting in unsteady gait and falls and (ii) it directly contributes to osteoporosis and increased bone fragility by inducing increased bone resorption to mobilize sodium. There is debate over the effect of hyponatremia on the production of osteoporosis, as one study found decreased bone mineral density (BMD) and another did not. Should we be screening for low serum sodium in patients with osteoporosis or assessing BMD in patients with hyponatremia? The final answer is yet to come from prospective studies that allocate elderly individuals with mild hyponatremia to receive active treatment or not for hyponatremia and see if this intervention prevents gait disturbances and changes in BMD reducing fracture risk. In the meantime, physicians caring for elderly patients must be aware of the association between hyponatremia and bone problems. As serum sodium is a readily available, simple and affordable biochemical measurement, clinicians should look for hyponatremia in elderly patients who take medications that can cause hyponatremia. Also, elderly patients with unsteady gait and/or confusion should be checked for the presence of mild hyponatremia and if present it should not be ignored. Finally, elderly patients presenting with an orthopedic injury should have serum sodium checked and corrected if hyponatremia is present.

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